Over 20,000 Pinoy passengers offloaded in first half of 2016
Over 20,000 Filipino travelers have been barred from leaving the country in the first six months of the year over suspicion that they were victims of human trafficking or illegal recruitment, according to data from the Bureau of Immigration.
Based on BI data, bulk of the 20,316 passengers were offloaded at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, while the rest were offloaded at airports in Mactan, Clark, Iloilo, Kalibo, and Davao.
About 1,500 of the passengers, meanwhile, were intercepted at the Zamboanga seaport, the BI said.
The bureau's Travel Control and Enforcement Unit (TCEU) also referred the cases of 317 offloaded passengers to the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) for further investigation and possible filing of court cases.
A passenger's departure is deferred whenever immigration officers suspect that the passenger is a possible victim of human trafficking and illegal recruitment.
Immigration officers require travelers to present proof that they are legitimate tourists and are not going abroad to work without proper documents.
Last year, a total of 45,989 passengers were offloaded by the BI.
"The campaign has been in high gear, and there will be no letup in our effort to secure our citizens from being victims of human trafficking or illegal recruitment," said Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente on Tuesday.
Morente warned BI personnel who are involved in illegal activities that they will be punished if found guilty of conniving with unscrupulous individuals.
"We are determined to impose the stiffest disciplinary action of any of our personnel caught conniving with these trafficking syndicates," he said.
Morente issued the statement after President Rodrigo Duterte's recent State of the Nation Address (SONA) where he identified the fight against human trafficking as one of his administration's priority programs.
It also comes in the wake of the release of the US State Department’s report placing the Philippines under Tier 1 of its annual trafficking in persons watchlist, which means the country "fully meets the minimum standards for the elimination of human trafficking" under the US Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000.
The Philippines is the only Southeast Asian country under Tier 1. —KBK, GMA News